For the Love of Harlem (Run)
I have had an eleven year relationship with Harlem and it just keeps getting better and better with time. The love and energy that we have poured into one another in the community is nothing short of amazing. At times, I smile and think, 'Jeez you have this much feelings towards a place?' However it makes sense - I went to college in Harlem, started working my first "real" job in Harlem, met my now-fiancé in Harlem, and found Harlem Run. All in all Harlem has been good to me.
Distance running has not always been for me. I've always been an active individual willing to try new things and ready to take on a challenge, but running - aside from a 10-12 minute warmup on the treadmill - was never a real thought to me ... But, flashback to 2016 to a vision board party at my home where my friend, Lindsie, places on her vision board: 5k, 13.1, 26.2 and asks me to journey with her. Reluctant with a bit of intrigue and for solidarity purposes, it goes on my board too.
My first "official" run was the NYRR Percy Sutton 5K in Harlem in August 2016. I remember finishing that race and feeling an incredible high. I was so proud because I did not stop once and I was pacing my co-worker before I even knew what "pacing" was in the running community. On this day I also won 2 tickets to see the Color Purple Musical on Broadway at the race festivities.
I thought to myself, 'If running is always like this then I'm definitely doing it again!' I signed up for more runs but quickly realized running isn’t always glorious. Running is downright hard and ugly at times while still being powerful and emotional. It is just you and your thoughts, you and your body, and it can be daunting for some. Through running I gained even more control of my mind and body. I found that I could will myself to do anything.
Still on a runner's high I thought 'Hey, why not enter the drawing for the NYC United Half Marathon? It’s not like you're going to get selected." Well, I got in and was both excited and terrified. How am I going to run 13.1 miles? I've only run 4 miles max!
Enter stage right: Harlem Run. I slid into Alison M Desir's DM aka "Powdered Feet" inquiring about running with Harlem Run. I showed up and was met with a smiling face by a fellow runner who said, "It's only my 4th time here but you're going to love it." Thanks, Lindsey. I ran with Alison and Raydime to Central Park where we met the larger group for 7pm.
Shortly after, the famous question arose; "Is it anyone first time tonight? Raise your hand." In keeping with the New Year spirit we were then told to turn to our neighbor and tell them what you plan to do more of this year. I turned to Mona and I said "I plan to run with Harlem Run on a consistent basis." I showed up the following week and I kept showing up. In showing up I created bonds with the most amazing people and if for nothing else for this I am truly grateful.
Before I knew it August 2017, my running anniversary, was here. While reflecting I realized I had completed 2 half marathons - United Half and Brooklyn Half - and will qualify for the NYC Marathon. Running the Percy Sutton 5K in 2017 was so exciting for me. I felt I came full circle from that first "official" run and it had so much meaning .
I PR'd in more ways than one. I improved on my time. I received the best hardware ever - bling bling - from my best friend ever and gained a run-family like no other.
I would have never imagined running would become such a staple in my life and continue to bring me immense joy. I'm happy I stuck with that New Year Resolution. Thank You Harlem Run for being accepting, kind, and all-around bad ass. Thank you for being a part of my story. Thank you for being a part of my life.
-Jodie K Alexander